45th National Conference of the Musicological Society of Australia 2022: Keynote Abstracts and Biographies

Keynote Speaker: Kate van Orden

Dwight P. Robinson Jr. Professor of Music, Harvard University
President of the International Musicological Society, 2022-2027

Songs in Unexpected Places: Language and Mobility

My title is a riff on Alastair Pennycook’s Language and Mobility: Unexpected Places (2012), a study that questions why language, peoples, and cultures seem to turn up in “unexpected places.” In brief, the problem lies with expectations themselves and their origins in nationalistic ideologies of language, place, and belonging that depend on beliefs in the rootedness of culture.

Pennycook is a sociolinguist and his research concerns present-day global Englishes in polyglot places like Sydney and Tokyo, but his postcolonial critique resonates strongly with my work on sixteenth-century vernacular songs. In music, “national” designations are commonplace components of generic definitions (French chanson, Italian madrigal, German Lied), and the segregated categories they establish have been reinforced by historiographies that exclude, minoritize, and even exoticize songs that travel beyond the linguistic borders of proto nation-states. Despite substantial evidence that vernacular songs circulated widely, expectations about where people and songs belong in our histories have foreclosed studies that might instead embrace these musical migrants as precious evidence of human and cultural mobility.

In this talk, I discuss cases from my own research (Turkish songs printed in Paris, French songs copied in Florence, polyglot songs printed in Venice), the linguistic expectations that have silenced minority repertoires in music histories, and the ways that concepts such as “metrolingualism” being generated by Pennycook and Emi Otsuji can offer alternative critical tools and new intellectual grounding for musicologists and literary historians concerned with questions of cultural mobility.

Kate van Orden specializes in the cultural history of early modern France, Italy, and the Mediterranean, popular music (mostly 16th-c, but also in the 1960s), and cultural mobility. With Kay Kaufman Shelemay, she co-edits Musics in Motion, a book series devoted to music and migration in all times and places.

Her latest project is Seachanges: Music in the Mediterranean and Colonial Worlds, 1550-1800 (I Tatti Studies), an edited volume of connected music histories working at the expanded scale of seas and oceans. Her prize-winning publications include Materialities: Books, Readers, and the Chanson in 16th-c. Europe (Oxford, 2015), Music, Discipline, and Arms in Early Modern France (Chicago, 2005), and articles in Renaissance Quarterly and Early Music History. Among her recent distinctions are a Senior Fellowship at the Stanford Humanities Center (2017-18) and a French Medaille d’Honneur for her outstanding contributions to our understanding of the Renaissance.

van Orden is the newly-elected President of the International Musicological Society (2022-2027) and serves as Editor-in-Chief of Oxford Bibliographies in Music. She grew up playing bassoon on a sheep farm in Iowa and studied music in The Netherlands, where she began her career; you can hear her in concerts with period instrument bands and in recordings on Sony, Virgin Classics, and Harmonia Mundi.

Keynote Speaker (Early Career Researcher): Sarah Kirby

University of Melbourne
State Library of New South Wales

Inventing Percy Grainger on Page, Stage, and Screen

Percy Grainger has long been both a source of fascination and a challenge to biographers. His unique autobiographical museum and collection left a vast assortment of materials for future study, illustrating the most intimate details of his musical and personal life. Yet these objects were carefully curated to an unusual extent, with the museum forming another ‘stage’ on which Grainger could perform his own biography.

The sheer volume of information preserved in the Museum allows for multiple, often contradictory narratives to be drawn from the same material. In reflecting on the challenges of working with this collection—and the body of scholarly literature that now accompanies it—this paper attempts to untangle the multiple ways that Grainger, both person and composer, has been constructed, presented or even re-invented across the decades since his death in 1961. It takes as its case studies (semi)fictionalised representations of Grainger through the work of other artists, directors, playwrights, and filmmakers (including Passion: The Extraordinary Life of Percy Grainger, 1999, directed by Peter Duncan, and Thérèse Radic’s 1982 A Whip-Round for Percy Grainger) to argue that the tensions and dialogue between creative representations of Grainger and his own self-conscious self-depiction can reveal new understandings of our relationship with both the man and his music. This is particularly the case in the contemporary Australian context, and in relation to the largely expatriate Grainger’s own artificial construction of an ‘Australian’ compositional voice.

Analysing these interpretations of Grainger’s life and music, this paper considers questions of identity, meaning and representation. What attracts creators to Grainger’s story, and what do changing depictions of his life tell us about our relationship with Grainger the person, his music, the Grainger Collection, and Australian social, cultural and political history overall? This re-evaluation will offer new understandings of the role of the Grainger Museum in the contemporary Australian context and how both the academy and Australian society might engage with Grainger, his music, and his complex legacy in the twenty-first century.

Sarah Kirby is the Grainger Fellow in the Museums & Collections department of the University of Melbourne. She is a recent doctoral graduate of the University of Melbourne, where her thesis explored music at international exhibitions in the British Empire throughout the 1880s. Her PhD was funded by an Endeavour Research Fellowship, which allowed her to undertake part of her studies at the University of Bristol. Sarah has published widely on music in Britain and Australia, colonialism, women in music, and music in museums. Her first monograph, Exhibitions, Music and the British Empire, is out now with Boydell & Brewer. She has, for many years, tutored and lectured in undergraduate music history at the Melbourne Conservatorium, and more recently at the University of New England. She is also currently the 2022 Nancy Keesing Fellow at the State Library of NSW, where she is working on a project about the British Music Society in Australia and interwar musical internationalism. She is the associate editor of Musicology Australia and membership secretary of the MSA.